If you peek out your front door and look at your lawn, you might find it doesn’t look very healthy right now: brown, dry, limp… almost like it’s dying. Don’t panic!
In fact, this time of year, it’s perfectly fine. Your turfgrass is lying dormant right now, which is a natural part of its lifecycle, and it’s vital to the lawn’s survival of the winter and its ability to thrive in the spring.
One mistake to avoid is to start loading it up with water and fertilizer, as you will end up doing far more harm than good.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can during the colder months to help keep your lawn in its best possible shape and make sure it doesn’t succumb to the dreaded “winter blues.” Here are six tips you can put into practice now and over the next several weeks before the growing season begins again:
1. Minimize foot traffic
Because your lawn needs to lie dormant during most of the winter, it’s in a more vulnerable state than during warmer months when it’s constantly eating, drinking, and growing. One of the areas you can control when it comes to protecting and nurturing your dormant grass is to minimize the amount of foot traffic and other potential damage it receives over the winter.
Walk a little bit out of your way to stay off the grass, rather than trampling a path into the lawn that will scar it through the summer. If you have pets, use a leash and take them somewhere else in the winter, if possible.
2. Water appropriately
Although the lawn doesn’t need nearly as much water now as it did in the hottest part of July or August, it does still need adequate moisture, even in its dormant state.
While the average Pensacola lawn needs a solid soaking (½ to ¾ of an inch of water) every 2-3 days or so in the summer, the same lawn can sometimes go as long as 1-3 weeks between waterings in the wintertime. Keep an eye on the amount of rainfall we’re getting too, because that counts toward this watering schedule, and it’s far easier to over-water in the winter than in the summer.
Never just leave your automatic sprinkler system running day in and day out throughout the year. Not only are you risking serious damage to the system when we get the rare - but very possible - freeze, but you’re overwatering your lawn, likely preventing it from going dormant at all.
3. Be prepared with pre-emergent weed control and fertilizer
You shouldn’t actually apply pre-emergent herbicides during the cold part of the winter, but it’s a good time to do your research and determine which types are the best for your lawn.
Pre-emergents are especially effective at preventing weeds in your lawn if they’re properly applied in the window of time between the winter’s last consistent low temperatures and the start of the growing season, when the average soil temperature is around 50 degrees. Don’t wait until it feels like spring has sprung, because you may already be too late.
4. Stay vigilant against winter lawn diseases
As already mentioned, your dormant lawn is more vulnerable now than it usually is during the growing season, so you need to keep any eye out for signs of common lawn diseases affecting your grass as well.
The most common cool-weather lawn diseases to watch out for are:
- Pythium Blight
- Harmful Nematodes
- Brown patch/large patch
Learn how to identify these enemies and distinguish them from the normal appearance of dormant turfgrass. Then, take the necessary action to protect your lawn now so it has a fighting chance of protecting itself come spring.
5. Don’t fall for fertilizer marketing gimmicks
This final tip is especially important to keep in mind in late February and early March. Big box stores and hardware stores may start advertising great prices on lawn fertilizer around this time, but take it from us: it’s typically far too early to start fertilizing your lawn on the Florida panhandle. Not only will it waste your time and money, it can even do damage to weak grass that’s just starting to emerge from dormancy and ramp up for the growing season. Rather, schedule your first fertilizer application for the middle of April in our area.
How your Pensacola lawn care company can help
If you’re surprised by how much work can go into caring for your northwest Florida lawn when it’s not even growing, you’re not alone. A lot of Pensacola homeowners may not realize everything that is involved when considering DIY lawn care.
That’s why so many people trust Lawn Master as their Pensacola lawn care partner for the last three decades. We can handle all of the above and more for you this winter, and everything else your lawn needs throughout the year.